Gentleness and Self-Control

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

- Matthew 11:28–30

By His death and resurrection, Christ Jesus has delivered us from the penalty of sin, and through the gift of the Holy Spirit, He has broken the power of wickedness in our lives (Rom. 8:1–17). This does not mean that we will achieve sinlessness before we are glorified. Yet, it does mean that Christians will see victory over sin as they mature in faith. They will cultivate the fruit of the Spirit as the Spirit works to make them holy in what they do (Gal. 5:22–23).

Love — the love of God for us and our love for Him that the Spirit has poured in our hearts (Rom. 5:5) — is the ground of all the other fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22–23. Knowing this love and expressing it in return gives us joy and peace, helps us to be patient and kind, and provides us the reason to be good and faithful. But this love wrought in our hearts by the Holy Spirit also leads to the fruits of gentleness and self-control, the final two fruits Paul lists in Galatians 5.

Interestingly, gentleness was characteristic of the two major covenant mediators we read about in Scripture. Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses, the mediator of the old covenant, was “very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Meek here is a synonym for gentleness. Gentleness was also an essential trait of our new covenant Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ. He called Himself “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). Given this biblical evidence, it is not a stretch to say that gentleness equipped both men for their respective roles.

Biblically speaking, a gentle person is not one who is reticent or fearful but one who exercises strength appropriately. Jesus was the most powerful man who ever lived, as He was God incarnate (John 1:1–14). But Jesus did not bully people with His power; rather, He tempered it with gentleness. He stood for truth when necessary, but He was quick to show mercy to the humble and repentant (John 4:1–45).

Gentleness is closely related to self-control. God does not exercise His power arbitrarily or chaotically; rather, He restrains Himself and is gentle with His people. He is in perfect control of Himself, and while we are not omnipotent, we can imitate this self-control when we deal with other people. Let us show selfcontrol and gentleness toward even those whom we find hardest to love.

Coram Deo

Jesus, indeed, was a gentle man, but He was by no means a pushover. He denounced sin when He needed to and gave His life of His own accord, not because the Romans and the Sanhedrin forced Him to the cross (Matt. 23; John 10:18). As with patience, it takes much wisdom to remain self-controlled and gentle. But with the help of the Spirit, we can learn to be gentle without being pushovers. Let us strive toward this end today.

Passages for Further Study

2 Samuel 22:36
2 Timothy 1:6–7

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